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Safeguarding Vulnerable Children on Transport Networks

Safeguarding Vulnerable Children on Transport Networks

Monday 29 January marks the start of two weeks of action in Braintree to raise awareness of the vulnerability of young people to exploitation and abuse at stations and transport networks.

Research and local data have shown transport networks are used by vulnerable young people who may be at risk of child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation and trafficking. Young people often gravitate towards stations because they are busy, anonymous places that also provide some form of shelter and access to food and drink. A young person may use a station or public transport as a way to try to disappear. Bus and rail networks can also be used by offenders to traffic young people for the purpose of sexual and criminal exploitation.

All staff working within and around a station, from ticket collectors to engineers, and coffee shop workers to cleaners, play an important role in safeguarding vulnerable young people. This campaign includes an important element of work in which transport network staff will be educated to ensure they are able to identify and recognise potential concerns and know how and where to report such concerns. 

Outreach workers will be visiting stations in the areas during the two weeks, speaking to staff and the public about spotting the signs of exploitation and what to do if they have concerns.

Councillor Wendy Schmitt, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Braintree District Council, said: “Raising awareness of the issue of child sexual exploitation is vital in preventing it from happening and to help make the Braintree District a safer place. Everyone can play a role in tackling child exploitation and I would encourage everyone to find out more about the issue and what to do if they have any concerns.”

Phil Picton, Chair of the Essex Safeguarding Children Board said: “Child exploitation is a horrendous crime and one we can all play a part in helping to stop. Young people can be particularly vulnerable on trains, stations and transport networks due to the anonymity these places offer. I am pleased that we have been able to work with many partners across Essex to begin to raise awareness of this and hope members of the public will get on board with this campaign and report any concerns they may have.”

Chief Inspector Lewis Basford, of Essex Police, said: “Children and teenagers who are at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation don’t always see themselves as victims because the people taking advantage of them are manipulative. Some may also be afraid of telling anyone because they’re afraid of getting into trouble. So it’s vital that we can all spot the signs a young person may be vulnerable so that together we can all help protect them from harm. Staff and commuters in our busy train stations play an important part in this because they see hundreds, if not thousands, of people a day. However, we must all be vigilant. If you see something that doesn’t feel right, please report it. It could make all the difference to a child’s life.”

Chief Inspector John Loveless from British Transport Police said: “We often come across young people on the railway network who may be vulnerable. They may be missing from home, or being exploited in some way, and it’s crucial that we are all aware of the signs of how to spot a vulnerable young person. These two weeks of activity in Essex are aiming to help everyone recognise these signs and protect young people.”

Sarah Simpkin, The Children’s Society, said: “Child sexual exploitation is a horrific crime, and it can happen to any child in any community. This campaign highlights the fact that any of us can come into contact with a child at risk, including during our daily commute. Train and bus stations are often used by vulnerable young people - including those who have run away from home - and in this busy, anonymous environment they can be at risk of abuse or exploitation or being trafficked for exploitation. We can all play a part in keeping children safe by being aware of the signs that a child is vulnerable to exploitation and reporting any concerns, so that action can be taken to protect them at the earliest opportunity.”

Jay Thompson, Greater Anglia Head of Safety, Security and Sustainability, said: "We're happy to support this initiative. Our colleagues on trains and stations are always on the lookout for anything unusual or suspicious to keep our railway and stations safe places for everyone."